CRN’s New York Age-Restriction Lawsuit Moves Forward on First Amendment Issue

MAY 14, 2024

WASHINGTON — The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the leading trade association for the dietary supplement and functional food industry, today noted a significant legal milestone in its lawsuit challenging age restrictions on certain dietary supplements in New York. A federal court in the Southern District of New York has denied the State of New York’s motion to dismiss CRN’s claims that the recently enacted age-restriction law in the State infringes on lawful commercial speech and violates the First Amendment rights of supplement marketers and retailers. 

The ruling allows CRN to proceed to argue on the merits that the law infringes on the right to make truthful and lawful claims for certain dietary supplements that may assist with weight management or provide muscle support. The judge previously ruled that CRN has standing to pursue these claims on behalf of its members. 

The law, enacted in October 2023, prohibits retailers from selling dietary supplements to individuals under 18 years old if the products, or their ingredients, are labeled, marketed, or otherwise represented for weight loss or muscle building. CRN argues in the lawsuit that the statute infringes on First Amendment rights by restricting truthful commercial speech and access to lawful products without clear scientific justification.

UPDATE: CRN’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Megan Olsen, provides additional insights in our latest Take 5 video segment. 

Steve Mister, President & CEO of CRN, expressed optimism about the court's decision and reiterated the association's commitment to defending free speech. 

"Even as we prepare to appeal the district court judge’s earlier decision on our preliminary injunction, we are encouraged by his ruling yesterday on our First Amendment argument,” said Mister. “The judge denied the State of New York’s motion to dismiss our claim that the age restriction law infringes on lawful commercial speech and violates the First Amendment rights of our members to make truthful and lawful claims for their products.”

Mister added: “In holding that CRN’s claims made plausible the inference that the statute ‘might very well regulate protected speech,’ this decision allows us to move forward on the merits of the case. The judge has already recognized that CRN has standing to pursue these claims on behalf of our members. Yesterday’s ruling was another milestone toward invalidating these illegitimate restrictions. We are confident in the strength of our legal arguments.”

CRN initially filed the lawsuit in March 2024, arguing that the New York law's broad and ambiguous definitions lead to unwarranted restrictions on a wide range of dietary supplements. CRN alleged that the law's imprecise language creates a chilling effect on commercial speech, prompting retailers to overly restrict access to beneficial products out of fear of penalties.

"Like the supporters of this law, CRN’s member companies take the rise in eating disorders among young people seriously," added Mister. "However, this law is an example of misguided regulation that will harm both the industry and consumers. Our lawsuit seeks to enjoin the enforcement of the law and protect the rights of our members to communicate truthful information about their products."

While the district court judge granted the State’s motion to dismiss other causes of action in CRN’s complaint, the association is evaluating its opportunities to appeal those portions of the decision as well. CRN also argued that the age restrictions are invalid because they are void for vagueness, they are an excessive use of the State’s police powers without adequate justification, and they are preempted by the FDA’s federal regulatory framework for the regulation of dietary supplement and their labeling claims.  

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), founded in 1973, is a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing 180+ dietary supplement and functional food manufacturers, ingredient suppliers, and companies providing services to those manufacturers and suppliers. In addition to complying with a host of federal and state regulations governing dietary supplements and food in the areas of manufacturing, marketing, quality control and safety, our manufacturer and supplier members also agree to adhere to additional voluntary guidelines as well as to CRN’s Code of Ethics.  Follow us on Twitter @CRN_Supplements and LinkedIn.